Monday, June 23, 2014

St. Louis Roman Catholic Archbishop claims he didn't know that sexual abuse of minors was a crime

As reported by Lilly Fowler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 10, 2014:

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson claimed to be uncertain that he knew sexual abuse of a child by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to a deposition released Monday.

During the deposition taken last month, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson whether he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

Anderson went on to ask Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson said.

Yet according to documents released Monday by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.

In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John R. Roach, about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.

In a statement, Gabe Jones, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said “while not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today.”

“The question does not address the archbishop’s moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense,” Jones said.

Anderson took Carlson’s deposition as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit in Minnesota involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona, Minn.

The plaintiff in the case, only identified as “Doe 1,” claims to have been abused in the 1970s by the Rev. Thomas Adamson at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park, Minn.

Later in the deposition, when asked about an incident of alleged sexual abuse of a minor by another priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Rev. Jerome Kern, Anderson asks Carlson:

“But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?,” referring to what a 1987 church memo said about the alleged incident.

“Yes,” Carlson replied.

Carlson went on to admit that he never personally reported any incidents of sex abuse to the police, though he encouraged parents to at least once.

Carlson also said that even in 1996 he did not know that pedophilia was a disorder that couldn’t be cured.

“I did not know that, but as a pastor, I was becoming increasingly concerned,” Carlson said...

...But over and over, throughout the deposition, Carlson claimed to not remember answers to questions posed by Anderson — for a total of 193 times.

Anderson asked Carlson if there was any physical condition or illness that was impeding his memory.

“I can’t make either a psychological or a physical diagnosis, other than to say I have had seven cancer surgeries. Each time, I received some kind of chemical to put me out for that. If that’s impeded my memory or not, I have no idea,” Carlson answered. “My concern is that what I say to you would be accurate.”

Anderson has also taken Carlson’s deposition for a priest sexual abuse case scheduled for trial July 7 in St. Louis. That deposition is under seal.

According to Anderson, Carlson was involved in handling sexual abuse cases in Minnesota for 15 years.
The Archdiocese, however, claims that Archbishop Carlson's statements have been taken out of contest, as reported by Ms. Fowler, June 11, 2014:

Statements by St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson about not knowing whether sexual abuse of children by priests was a crime that have ignited outrage were taken out of context, a spokesman for the archdiocese said Wednesday.

The spokesman, Gabe Jones, said the comments Carlson made in a deposition last month had been misconstrued in news reports to suggest the archbishop didn’t know it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Jones said.

“When the archbishop said ‘I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,’ ” Jones said, “he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse.”

The deposition is part of a sexual abuse lawsuit in Minnesota involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona, Minn. Carlson was responding to questions from plaintiff attorney Jeff Anderson...

...Mandatory reporting is an issue that concerns Carlson. He has admitted that he never personally reported any incidents of sexual abuse to the police, though he says he encouraged parents to at least once.

Beginning in 1988, according to Minnesota law, clergy were required to report any suspicions of sexual abuse to the authorities.

Still, Anderson said in an interview Wednesday, Carlson has always had an obligation to report what he knew.

“To say it’s not a crime doesn’t relieve you of an obligation to protect children,” Anderson said. “He made a conscious choice to do the wrong thing.”

Church documents show Carlson discovered in 1980 that Adamson, the priest at the center of the Minnesota lawsuit, had a history of sexual abuse.

Both as a teacher and principal at parochial schools, and as a priest in churches across southern Minnesota, Adamson claimed victims, according to the civil lawsuit.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Adamson admitted to officials at the Winona diocese that he had sexually abused children, according to the civil lawsuit.

Once he asked two boys to disrobe; another time he tried to grab a boy’s genitals at the local YMCA; still another time he touched a boy’s genitals while in a sauna or whirlpool, the civil lawsuit says.

Adamson, in turn, was repeatedly transferred and sent to treatment, the suit says. Then, in 1976, he began working at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park, Minn., and allegedly abused the plaintiff in the case, known only as “Doe 1,” an altar boy.

In 1984 Carlson, who had heard about Adamson abusing a different child, recommended the priest be sent for treatment.

“It is obvious to me in dealing with Father Adamson at this time that he has little remorse other than the fact that we found something else out and completely minimizes the entire situation,” Carlson wrote in a church memo.

Carlson’s statements in the deposition, made public by Anderson on Monday, prompted a small protest Wednesday in front of the green-domed Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Many of the protesters said they still believed in the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, though not in the leadership.

At one point, Wendy Casagrande, 76, stepped in front of the crowd and in a booming voice that belied her small, frail frame, yelled “Liar, liar pants on fire!”

"Liar, liar, pants on fire!" said Wendy Casagrande, of Foley, as she addressed the crowd during a vigil on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, outside the Cathedral Basilica in the Central West End condemning the recent statements and actions of Archbishop Robert Carlson on clergy sex abuse cases. "The Bible tells us not to lie," Casagrande continued. She stood next to David Clohessy, National Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Those gathered at the Cathedral Basilica, however, did not talk about Carlson’s relationship to Adamson specifically.

They spoke in more general terms about their continued frustration at the lack of transparency in the church and the fact that it takes depositions such as the one Carlson is now defending — and documents released as part of lawsuits such as the one involving Adamson — to gather information about their institution and the child sexual abuse scandal...
Archbishop Carlson has offered a Maxwell Smart defense ("Would you believe...?"). My response is the same as that of those to whom Maxwell Smart would offer his comments: "I find that very hard to believe." I haven't seen such failure of memory on the witness stand since the mid-1970s prosecutions of various figures associated with the 1972 break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. and the subsequent cover-up. One Watergate defendant--Dwight Chapin, I think--was convicted and sentenced to prison because his inability under oath to remember things was not regarded as credible. I suspect that Archbishop Carlson has been advised by his attorney to say "I don't remember" rather than "I don't want to risk getting into trouble by saying anything that may contradict previous statements of mine that are already on record."

Archbishop Carlson made his statements in a videotaped deposition in the Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Twenty-Second Judicial Court, State of Missouri, on May 23, 2014. The reader may go here to read the transcript of Archbishop Carlson to see if his statements (see pages 109-110) have been taken out of context. Go here to see then-auxiliary Bishop Carlson's 1984 memo to St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Roach.

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